Loss of family, scuttled dreams, depression and debilitating physical pain have left their mark, but her buoyancy has encouraged others fighting fear, isolation, loss, loneliness and pain.
Banayat’s award-winning book, Stretch Your Brave, Hack Your Story, Break Through Chronic Disease with Storytelling, documents her journey with sudden-onset rheumatoid arthritis and inspires forging ahead despite despair.
Writing the book became an impetus to founding WingSpace Coworking, a collaborative professional environment for entrepreneurs. From mastering work/life balance to commanding fear of the unknown, Banayat readily shares her capacity for drawing hope and light.
“Fear doesn’t like anything exciting, new or resembling potential,” she advised. “Fear loves boring and predictable. It likes the way things have been done before. Fear says, ‘Don’t ever change.’ But since life is ever-changing, I like giving it direction.”
Banayat urges fellow professionals to field their own curve balls.
“This modern world in which we live is like walking through a minefield of triggers and distractions that knock us off course at the slightest move,” she said. “So, it’s important to develop awareness of how everything is interconnected and how we impact one another.
“WingSpace Coworking is for people who want to be part of a community of like-minded individuals. We’re a mix of freelancers, small business owners, micro-business owners, remote workers, thinkers, doers and idea makers. We are the misfits of the workforce who finally have a place to call our own in the Prescott area. And there is plenty of room for more.”
The location offers private offices or open space where members and guests can use a desk, conduct business, attend workshops, teach seminars, reserve conference rooms, book events and mingle.
“We may have to work, but we don’t have to work alone,” Banayat contended. “We spend many hours of our life devoted to bringing home a paycheck, so we may as well set ourselves up to enjoy it as much as we can to keep our mental, emotional, physical and spiritual health in good shape.”
Starting her own career as a freelance artist after studying graphic design and fine art in the mid-1980s, Banayat established a successful business.
A dozen years later, she sold the company and entered resort management with her husband. The couple bought a lake resort in Oregon’s Cascade Mountains, which presented “a rare opportunity to dive into a lifestyle” she anticipated as ideal for raising her children.
“I laugh at myself for that decision because I didn’t even know how to fish, let alone sell fishing tackle,” she chuckled, drawing comparisons to actress Ava Gabor’s city slicker socialite moving to a pig farm in the 1970s TV comedy Green Acres.
“It was hard work and an incredibly beautiful life that I would never trade,” she said. “I jokingly tell my kids that I raised them like Mowgli [the Rudyard Kipling character raised in the jungle by wolves]: out in nature, covered in dirt, where every day was an adventure.”
Later divorced, Banayat became a full-time artist, convincing high end galleries to carry her art. Soon, she “met a man, fell in love, and all was humming along fine until the economic downturn in 2008,” when stress-triggered rheumatoid arthritis toppled her dreams.
“I was no longer able to paint because the joints in my hands, arms and feet were swollen, painful, and I could no longer hold my tools,” she explained. “My fine art career came to sudden halt. I felt blindsided.”
Determined to fight the disease without medication, Banayat completed an 18-month holistic health coach certification, reversed her symptoms, and embraced another career.
“The health coach training really changed my whole perspective on life and work,” she said. “I learned how impactful stress is on humans and how it manifests in us in a multitude of ways mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. That whole experience led me to want to use my skill sets to help others, so I started a private practice out of my home working with clients one on one.”
Banayat “realized how isolated and lonely I felt working by myself every single day. I began looking for ways to collaborate with others because I just knew in my gut that others were experiencing similar problems working from home.”
Thus began the idea for WingSpace: “I have never regretted honoring my intuition or taking the road less traveled, but I take only calculated risks, looking at all sides of a venture to see if it matches up with my values, goals and the lifestyle I want. As long as I can maintain a sense of curiosity, creativity and elements of quirky fun in whatever I do, any hard work is worth doing.”
She derives great joy from “playing matchmaker” between someone who is working on a project and needs help with a logo, branding or coding a website. “I say, ‘Hey, there are a few members here that can help you with those things, let me introduce you.’ I want my members to feel like they are part of a community that cares about them, their work and their life beyond work.” QCBN
By Sue Marceau, QCBN